Vegetarians look away now - here is the proof that I'm becoming less guiri and more Spanish: a hunk of dead pig leg in my kitchen!
But not just any dead pig. This is Iberian pig, the finest of pigs, as any Spaniard will tell you, and a far superior ham to the alternative: jamón serrano. Paella and tortilla may be more widely associated with Spain, but jamón iberico is truly the nation's favourite delicacy. Every single bar will serve from it's own jamonero (the thing that holds the jamón), while many of them will have scores of jamones dangling from the ceiling as well, and you only need to go into one of the many "Museo de Jamón" shops to see just how highly jamón is esteemed here.
So it's no surprise that there are different grades of Iberian ham, based on the breed of pig, its diet, and how long the ham is cured. The best quality is known as 'black label', and is a pure-bred Iberian pig, free range and fed on acorns (de bellota). It's then cured between 24 - 48 months, and sells for something in the region €400 or more, while a ración in a restaurant could cost you €40 easily.
Ours isn't black label, but it's still a great luxury, being able to eat quality ham in your own home whenever you want, even if I haven't quite mastered the skill of cutting very fine slices.
Finally, some tips to avoid confusion: etiqueta negra is the tag that identifies the jamón as the best, as opposed to etiqueta roja/verde/blanca which are the other grades. Pata negra refers to jamón iberico in general, as the breed famously has black feet.
Jamón is ham, jamonero is the stand, and jamona is a lady with big breasts. Don't confuse these words.